Organizational ecology (also organizational demography and the ecology of organizations) is a theoretical and empirical approach in the social sciences that is especially used in organizational studies. Organizational ecology utilizes insights from biology, economics, and sociology, and employs statistical analysis to try to understand the conditions under which organizations emerge, grow, and die.
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- We situate the Special Research Forum on Organizational Ecology in the program of ecological research on organizations. We begin with a broad description of organizational ecology's theoretical and empirical development based on the contents of prior collections of work in the field. We then highlight key issues facing ecological research, outline how the articles in this special research forum are linked by common threads, and discuss their contributions. We close with suggested directions for future research.
- Terry L. Amburgey and Hayagreeva Rao. "Organizational ecology: Past, present, and future directions." Academy of management journal 39.5 (1996): 1265-1286; Abstract
- Until the mid-1970s, the prominent approach in organization and management theory emphasized adaptive change in organizations. In this view, as environments change, leaders or dominant coalitions in organizations alter appropriate organizational features to realign their fit to environmental demands (e.g. Lawrence and Lorsch 1967; Thompson 1967; Child 1972; Chandler 1977; Pfeffer and Salancik 1978; Porter 1980; Rumelt 1986). Since then, an approach to studying organizational change that places more emphasis on environmental selection processes, introduced at about that time (Aldrich and Pfeffer 1976; Hannan and Freeman 1977; Aldrich 1979; McKelvey 1982), has become increasingly influential. The stream of research on ecological perspectives of organizational change has generated tremendous excitement, controversy and debate in the community of organization and management theory scholars. Inspired by the question, Why are there so many kinds of organizations?
- This paper investigates organizational mortality in the early American telephone industry, in which thousands of companies proliferated and failed under conditions of technological change. Drawing on the theory of community ecology, it is predicted that when technologies are systemic, technological change does not necessarily favor advanced organizations. Instead, mutualism is predicted among both advanced and primitive firms, as long as they are technologically standardized and differentiated. Competition is expected when organizations are technologically incompatible or non-complementary. The hypotheses are supported by dynamic models of organizational mortality, estimated using archival data describing the life histories of all telephone companies that operated in Pennsylvania up to 1934 and in southeast Iowa from 1900 to 1930.
- William P. Barnett, "The organizational ecology of a technological system." Administrative Science Quarterly (1990): 31-60; Abstract.
- Recent research on organizational ecology is reviewed. Three levels of analysis and approaches to evolution are distinguished: (a) the organizational level, which uses a developmental approach; (b) the population level. which uses a selection approach; and (c) the community level, which uses a macroevolutionary approach. Theoretical and empirical research is critiqued within this framework. Proposals to develop organizational taxonomies are considered.
- Glenn R. Carroll, "Organizational ecology." Annual review of Sociology (1984): 71-93.
G - LEdit
- Hannan and Freeman examine the ecology of organizations by exploring the competition for resources and by trying to account for rates of entry and exit and for the diversity of organizational forms. They show that the destinies of organizations are determined more by impersonal forces than by the intervention of individuals by the intervention of individuals.
M - REdit
S - ZEdit
- Major theory and research in organizational ecology are reviewed, with an emphasis on the organization and population levels of analysis and processes of organizational foundings, mortality, and change. The main approach to organizational foundings examines the roles of density dependence and population dynamics. Six approaches to studying organizational mortality are fitness set theory, liability of newness, density dependence, resource partitioning, liability of smallness, and the effects of founding conditions. Research on organizational change is just beginning to appear in the literature. The convergence between ecological and institutional research is discussed, especially the role of legitimacy in population dynamics, and the effects of institutional variables on vital rates. Some key criticisms of organizational ecology are addressed, and some suggestions for future research are proposed.
- Jitendra V. Singh and Charles J. Lumsden. "Theory and research in organizational ecology." Annual review of sociology (1990): 161-195.
- This paper introduces a concept of organizational ecology. This refers to the organizational field created by a number of organizations, whose interrelations compose a system at the level of the field as a whole. The overall field becomes the object of inquiry, not the single organization as related to its organization-set. The emergence of organizational ecology from earlier organization theory is traced and illustrated from empirical studies. Its relevance to the task of institution-building, in a world in which the environment has become exceedingly complex and more interdependent, is argued.
- Eric Trist, "A concept of organizational ecology." Australian journal of management 2.2 (1977): 161-175. p. 161; abstract